Irish News

Saturday 26 July 2014

Senior GSOC director says agency is not fit for purpose

Philip Ryan

Published 14/05/2014|02:30

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The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission offices in Dublin
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission offices in Dublin

A SENIOR Garda Ombudsman director has condemned the agency as not fit for purpose in a damning personal submission to the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

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Director of investigations Ray Leonard claimed the garda oversight body lacks "effective independence" and does not represent "value for money" for the taxpayer.

Mr Leonard, who has been working for the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) for seven years, said the agency was "neither fish nor fowl" because of the legislation governing the body.

"It is not an ombudsman in the ordinary meaning nor is it a law enforcement agency with the requisite tool kit," he said.

His comments followed the announcement by Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday that the Cabinet was bringing forward legislation to give GSOC more powers.

The Garda Ombudsman came under fire last week for failing to provide barrister Sean Guerin with the information he needed to investigate Sgt Maurice McCabe's allegations of garda misconduct.

In his submission to the Justice Committee, Mr Leonard said his organisation could not operate independent of the State because it was financially dependent on the Department of Justice.

And in a swipe at former Justice Minister Alan Shatter, he criticised the "climate" and "culture" in which "the GSOC chairman can be summoned by the minister to give an account of himself".

Mr Leonard, a former Revenue Commissioner investigator, criticised several aspects of the legislation governing GSOC in his submission to the Justice Committee on the forthcoming changes to the Garda Siochana Act.

Mr Leonard will today appear before the committee to answer questions on his submission.

His 25-page letter to the committee is separate to a submission made by GSOC, which also put forward recommendations on legislative changes.

Meanwhile, a retired doctor has claimed there is inadequate protection for patients in garda custody.

Dr Richard O'Flaherty, who worked as an on-call doctor for garda stations, made the claim in a submission to the Oireachtas Justice Committee on legislative changes to the Garda Siochana Act.

Dr O'Flaherty said his 40 years of medical experience led him to conclude the "present situation is inadequate to protect patients in detention, doctors in attendance, other professionals and the silent majority of gardai".

He said all garda assault allegations should be referred to the GSOC.

He is a member of the victims' support group Justice4All, which forwarded allegations of garda harassment and intimidation to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Irish Independent

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